A bronze medallist in the event at London 2012, China’s Liu Hong went two steps further in the Rio 2016 women’s 20km walk, fending off Mexico’s Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez in a thrilling final kilometre to snatch gold.
World champion Liu was a firm favourite heading into Games and she lived up to that billing, powering away from Gonzalez as the finish line came into sight to win in 1:28.35. Gonzalez entered the final kilometre in the lead but was unable to resist Liu’s late onslaught on a hot and humid day in Rio, crossing the line a mere 0.02 seconds behind the 29-year-old world record holder. China’s Lu Xiuzhi, who won silver at last year’s world championships, had to settle for bronze.
“It was hard because the weather wasn’t perfect. The only thing I could do was keep going, do my best and try to get it right,” said Liu, who was fourth at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012. “Winning gold means a lot to me. I have been doing this sport for more than 10 years now. This time I was doing my best to get a medal and I am pleased I could get the gold today.”
In bringing Mexico its first medal at Rio 2016, Gonzalez also became only the second woman to win an athletics medal for the Latin American nation. “I feel good,” she said after missing out on the Olympic title by a whisker. “I was hoping to get the gold and I raced as hard as I could and gave it everything. But I’m happy. Next time I will have to race harder.”
“This is my second Olympics and I was sixth last time. But this time I won a medal for China and I’m very proud of that,” commented bronze medallist Lu. “I’m also very proud that there are two Chinese athletes on the podium. I didn’t feel that tired but in the last lap I should have been faster. I need to work on that.”